After two decades of primarily residential construction, by the mid-1920s, a scattered set of commercial buildings had risen along Wilshire Boulevard between Western Avenue and Park View Street. The left side of the original view shows one such structure at its northeast corner with Western Avenue, built in 1925 by the realty firm of James J. Donahue. The one-story building was topped by two large billboards aimed at passing motorists, a reflection of the boulevard’s fast-growing traffic volumes as well as the city’s newfound auto-centrism. Nonetheless, much of the thoroughfare maintained a suburban appearance, thanks to its long sections of spacious planted parkways.
Within months after the original photograph was taken, Wilshire Boulevard’s streetscape was significantly altered by one of the city’s earliest modern road widening projects. Between 1926 and 1927, the boulevard was widened, regraded, and repaved along its five-mile section between Westlake Park and Fairfax Avenue. While the street retained its total width of 100 feet, the original 56-foot roadway was widened to 70 feet, leaving 15 feet on each side for sidewalks and parkways. According to the city’s traffic engineers, the wider road accommodated a 100 per cent increase in vehicle traffic capacity, while pedestrian movement was improved by the elimination of parkways in its busier sections. The resulting street dimensions are shown in the present-day view.
In the decades since then, Wilshire Center has grown into one of the city’s densest employment centers, boasting a major cluster of office towers along its namesake boulevard. For many years, the Donahue Building proved surprisingly resilient to redevelopment, surviving through the 1980s with some exterior modifications. It was ultimately demolished around 1991, when construction began on the Metro subway’s second phase beneath Wilshire Boulevard. Since 1996, its corner has been used as the entrance to Wilshire/Western Station, the current terminus of the Purple Line subway.
1. “Donahue moves office” Los Angeles Times. 15 Feb. 1925. F6.
2. Simon, Richard, and Jon D. Markman. “Future of Wilshire may ride on subway extension.” Los Angeles Times. 12 Jul. 1996. 1.
3. “Wilshire’s new pavement done.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Jul. 1927. G5.
4. “Wilshire progress rapid.” Los Angeles Times. 29 Nov. 1926. A2.
Original photo: Dick Whittington Studio. “Yellow Cab driver training on Western Avenue, Southern California, 1926 – DW-1926-610-25-65A~05.” Dick Whittington Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll170/id/73154